Do Surveys Know What it is “to Value”?

A recent Pew survey finds that more Americans think scientists contribute a lot to society (70%) than do doctors (69%), engineers (64%), the clergy (40%), journalists (38%), artists (31%), lawyers (23%) or business executives (21%).

via Do Americans Value Science? New Numbers | Science Blog.

Questions this makes me ask:

  1. I wonder how highly people rate “contributions to society” when it comes to “reasons to keep people around and pay them”?  Are there other reasons, for example, that business executives should continue to be highly compensated and churned out of schools, or does this survey effectively say they should not be?
  2. Why in the frak aren’t farmers on that list?  Does “food” not count as a major contribution anymore?
  3. Does “scientists” seem like an unreasonably huge category to anyone else?  I think I “value” differently the contributions of, say, medical researchers versus people who work designing long-range missiles.
  4. I wonder what would have changed if there was a separate question for “artists in general” and “your favorite artists”.  I bet the same people who want to look down on artists as a group would change their tune if asked specifically how much the artists that enlighten and comfort them contribute to society.
  5. Am I just too picky or what?

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the fourth wall).
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3 Responses to Do Surveys Know What it is “to Value”?

  1. Nicky Hajal says:

    I think it is comforting to some people to measure things like ‘value’ in percentages… but it just doesn’t translate. It’s too emotional, too organic.

    As much as I love ‘science’, the trouble is that it (like many things) can encourage people to become very close-minded.

    You see it all the time when people use sleep research to refute polyphasic sleep. In reality, PS probably wasn’t even on the radar of the scientists conducting such studies, making them largely inapplicable.

    Annnyway, naptime.

    -Nicky

  2. Homo Faber says:

    The problem is the word “contribute”, since most people “somehow” contribute to society.

    (Disclaimer: I am not unbiased [engineering student])

    The meaning is probably more about “if everybody is doing their job, what additional(!) benefit do we get?”:
    Farmers provide us with food. Great. Worked for millions of years. Nothing new.
    Scientists (most of them, somehow) are permanently adding to our health / well being / future. (New drugs is a perfect example. I just recently profited from something that is barely 10 years old – before that, the rest of my life would have been dominated by pain.)
    Engineers (most of them, somehow) are working on… so many things we will rely on in the (near) future (regenerative energy, energy efficiency, totally new power grids to allow decentralized
    energy production (and probably/eventually storage)).

    That’s a somewhat problematic point of view. But, as stated above, if we just look at the contribution, nearly everybody is important.

    • puredoxyk says:

      I think I like the POV that has nearly everybody being important.

      Because that’s pretty darn true. Where would we all be without the sewer-cleaning guys? *eek*

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